It's gotta be so super weird to live in South Africa when stuff like this happens. And then again - maybe not. I've never been there. The most I've seen of it was the nation's best face for the World Cup last summer. It's easy to forget that apartheid's not even two decades dead there.
This now-cached post at FYWeddingIdeas went mini-viral and flitted across my dashboard this morning. It's a 'Colonial Africa' themed wedding. People objected.
Turns out it was held in Mpumalanga - the original post from the photographers is still live, but it looks like people have begun to make their dissatisfaction known. You can probably see why - this picture is one of two featuring black people. They're all attendants or servers.
I think the book that's taken me the furthest in the past few years is Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz. I didn't go to the East Coast until I was 17 years old. My experience in the American South has grown a lot since then. I feel race-conscious there, I feel the weight of it, the pull and push to explain that I never felt much growing up here.
I hate talking about it. I hate justifying the humanity of it. I hate explaining to people that we are not interchangeable, and yet that doesn't mean that one of us is more, or less, black than the other. I hate, as Du Bois would say, being a problem. It'd be nice to just live a little.
I don't know any of the people in the photographs of the wedding. I can't claim to see anything in the man's face behind the laughing pair with any accuracy. I do know the photo and the context make something cry out in me. Apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994. And the only dark-skinned people in these pictures are serving all the light-skinned people.
The only real debate I saw emerge about the photos was whether the planning of the wedding was ignorance + naivete or if there was some actual malice. There's not much in that debate for me. Pretty sure less than two decades after a society integrates the castes still exist. Whether this couple actually attached an ideology to this is pretty immaterial.
It seems that when someone throws on a bunch of warpaint or a frat throws a blackface party, the part that furrows my brow the most are the people applauding/defending/condoning/shrugging - and that's why this is particularly jarring to me. There are a ton of people at this wedding. The bride's a big planner per the photographer's blog post. And no one stopped them. Tumblr-at-large fixated on this, and rightfully so. Explaining to people why they're wrong is hard; when it's people you know and care about it's even harder.
As much as Coates wants a break, I just want to explain to everyone until it's crystal clear why this is wrong. [Maybe that's what I'm heading towards eventually. Explanation is kind of my job now.]
But I'm not even sure where to start. It's a big gap. It makes me feel sheltered and privileged and probably some other stuff I haven't figured out yet.